Revelations of tentative plans to evacuate millions of metropolitan Tokyo residents after the March 11 disaster, in the Sept. 19 article “Tokyo faced evacuation scenario: Kan,” were absolutely shocking. If it came to that, how could it be done, and where could we go?
It confirms what most foreign media were saying — that the situation was much worse than was being let on. It probably still is much worse. So, I feel embarrassed now after playing down the situation in mid-March to my North American friends and family, downplaying foreign media coverage as alarmist and hysterical. It turns out they weren’t so much.
We already knew — foreign observers of Japan have known since the Meiji Era — that dithering, coverup and incompetence are simply the Japanese way. And, when things go bad, Japan muddles through. Japanese love to dither and they excel at muddling. The premiership of Naoto Kan was doomed by his government’s inability to make decisions and to act, although that is not a problem unique to the former prime minister or his party.
Japanese leadership, either in the Prime Minister’s Office or the corporate boardroom, scares me because it’s like Bozo the Clown in charge of the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
That, by the way, might be one reason why Japan has so far failed in its goal to secure a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, might blame that failure largely on the complete abandonment of U.N. Security Council reform by the American government (Sept. 21 Kyodo article “U.S. has ‘abandoned’ U.N. reform”). But I like to think it’s because the rest of the world understands that having Japanese occupy important global leadership positions would be another calamity for the civilized world.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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